One of the most popular questions pro makeup Nina Westbury and I get on twitter is what eyeshadow shades look best on different eye colours. It’s not surprising as beauty counters display dozens of mono shadows and palettes in an array of combinations and textures. Even the pros can get a little overwhelmed.
Colour theory: “Choosing eye makeup is one of the most playful aspects of makeup artistry because it is where we have the most freedom and options,” says Estee Lauder’s Carly Wolk. “To achieve a desired look, we can refer to colour theory and the colour wheel. For a more subtle look, choose colours that are harmonious with the colour of the eyes. This means choose colours that are close to each other on the colour wheel. For a bolder, more striking look, choose colours that are complimentary or opposite on the colour wheel.”
Pro tip: “Blue shades are beautiful on all eye colours as blue will whiten the whites of the eye. This in turn allows your eye colour to look more luminous.”
“The easiest way to get a natural look is to select two softer, more subtle complimentary shades,” says Lancome’s Lora Spiga. “I like to use a highlighter under the brow, then apply a medium to darker shadow on the lid and eye contour. I’ll finish with a liner and some mascara.”
Your Best Eye Shadow Shades:
Dark blue eyes
Best shades: brown, slate grey, light purple, warm terracotta, burnt orange, gold, light pink, brown-pink, muted mauve, light dusty blue, turquoise, bronze.
Eyeliner essentials: midnight blue and black
Pro tip: “It is important to apply a dark shade of liner along the upper lash line to create definition,” says Dior’s Anne Marie VanMeer. “Black, navy, blue or grey are excellent choices.”
Pro tip: Burnt orange and terracotta are go-to shades for fashion designers in Milan and New York. You’ll see dozens of models wearing these colours every fashion week.
Pro tip: For a more daring look, play with pink and rose shadows. These can look particularly good in spring and summer.
Bobbi Brown Illuminating Nudes Palette
Lancome Colour Design Palette in Bronze Amour
Dior 5-Couleurs in Tutu
DiorShow Art Pen in navy and black
A dual-ended brush is the perfect tool for beautiful, fool-proof application. Use the flat side to press colour on the lid, and the angled side to line the eyes.”
Lancome Dual-Ended Shadow and Liner Brush #18
Light blue eyes
“When I work with clients who have light blue eyes, I look for shadows with complimentary tones like: soft blue, blue-grey, lavender, grey, pink and mauve,” says Lancome Pro Artist Lora Spiga. “For more contrast and drama, I’ll choose yellow-beige, taupe, gold-brown, cinnamon or coral-peach. This adds drama to the eye.”
Pro tip: “I use Dior’s Cuir Cannage palette all the time on brown eyes,” says Westbury. “If you look carefully, you’ll see that the browns are warm. They have a slight burgundy undertone and anything red or orange-based will make blue eyes pop. That is because blue is opposite orange on the colour wheel.” She says she particularly likes the matte milk chocolate shade in the center. “This is perfect for women who don’t like shimmer. It’s the perfect palette for any blue or green-eyed girl of any age.”
Pro tip: Want to make blue eyes really stand out? Line them with black eyeliner. So says MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist Melissa Gibson.
Best shades: lavender, light grey, white, champagne, peach, rich bronze, copper
Eyeliner essentials: navy and black
Clinique Wear Everywhere Palette in Pinks
Dior 5 Couleurs in Cuir Cannage
Guerlain Ecrin 4 Couleurs in 001
Lancome Colour Design in Teal Fury
Lancome Colour Design in Taupe Craze
Dior Mono Fusion #821 Chimere
“I love to use grey-blue shades on women with grey eyes,” says Elizabeth Arden’s Jamie Petrovic. “I also like to work with neutral colours to really illuminate the eyes. Misty Teal and Shimmering Taupe are always beautiful.”
“You can do almost anything with grey eyes,” says MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist Melissa Gibson. “I love to stick with a cement or silver shadow and line the eyes in black liner. That is a classic look.”
Best shades: lilac, orchid, plum, almond, cement, silver, khaki, blue-greys
Eyeliner essential: black
Elizabeth Arden Eyeshadow Duo in Misty Teal
Elizabeth Arden Eyeshadow Duo in Shimmering Taupe
MAC Eyeshadow in Stony
Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy Palette in Currant Desire
Shiseido Luminizing Satin Eye Shadow Trio in Bouquet
YSl Couture Mono in Caftan
Dark Brown eyes
“What makes brown eyes look rich, deep and mysterious are cool colours that have rich jewel-like tones,” says Wolk. “Purples are wonderful but beware of the ones that have warmer, red undertones (like burgundy or maroon). Stick with more blue-toned purples like amethyst and blue-violet.”
Best shades: black plum, chestnut, navy and taupe
“The trick with dark brown eyes is to use a liner that is darker than your eye colour, such as mahogany or espresso,” says Bobbi Brown
“As a guideline, I like to use blue or green eyeshadows with brown eyes,” says Pro Artist Nina Westbury. “I also like to use black or grey shadows to add sophistication and elegance. Rather than applying a lid full of blue like Abba used to wear, I like to use some grey or black in the crease for contrast and dimension.”
Nina particularly likes Lancome’s Colour Design Palette in Mint Jolie for South Asian skin tones. Pair it with an orange lipstick and you have a chic party look.
Get the look: Here’s how to get the most out of the Estee Lauder Pure Colour Envy Sculpting Eyeshadow 5-Colour Palette in Envious Orchid. Apply the bronze shade, using a medium-firm brush, on the eye lid. With an eye liner brush apply the top right deep brown shade along the upper and lower lash line, smudge out the line to create an “every day” smoky look.To increase the intensity, apply the dark brown from the lower right, into the crease and blend with the matte caramel colour. To finish softly apply the vanilla colour to the brow bone.
Chanel Illusion d’ombre 83 Illusoire
Estee Lauder Pure Colour Envy in Envious Orchid
Diorshow Fusion Mono
YSL Couture Mono in Faaon
Clarins Mineral Eyeshadow in Taupe
Lancome Colour Design in Mint Jolie
Bobbi Brown’s foolproof eye: “Layer shadows from light to dark. Start with the palest shadow as the base, then layer a medium shade, and apply the darkest shade last.”
Light Brown eyes
Brown eyes look natural when worn with brown shadows. But to make them the focus of your look, try navy or violet shades.
“The good thing about brown eyes is you can work with almost any colour you want,” says Gibson. “I like to use a blue eyeliner for contrast. And I do like to play with offbeat colours too.”
Best shades: medium browns, bronze, black plum, navy or dark chocolate brown, light mauve, light pink, and peach
Eyeliner essential: black
Dior Pro-tip: “Apply the bronze shade, using a medium-firm brush, on the eye lid,” says Dior’s Angie Semple. “Then, with an eye liner brush apply the top right deep brown shade along the upper and lower lash line. Smudge out the line to create an “every day” smoky look.”
She says to increase the intensity, apply the dark brown from the lower right, into the crease and blend with the matte caramel colour. “To finish, softly apply the vanilla colour to the brow bone.”
Pro-tip: Avoid using heavy eye creams on the lid before applying your eye makeup.
Becca Ombre Nudes Eye Palette
Lancome Colour Design Palette in Amethyst
Clinique All About Shadow Single in Peach Pop
Green eyes look mischievous and stunning when deep gold tones that are found in the actual flecks of the eye are used says Wolk. Wearing green shadows will give you a natural look. Violet (which has an element of red) will make green eyes ‘pop’.
Petrovic loves to use khaki greens mixed with brown shades. These can be worn day or night.
Best shades: plum, brown, taupe, smoky silver, silvery sage, heather, purple, lavender (any shadow with red undertones)
Eyeliner essential: navy
Elizabeth Arden Eyeshadow Duo in Classic Khaki
Clarins Mineral Eyeshadow in Silvery Sage
Estee Lauder Color Envy Palette in Rebel Metal
“I too look to the principle of the colour wheel when choosing eyeshadows,” says Cliniques Sara Whittaker. “To create a natural look, go with green/golden shades. This will create a monochromatic look that is close to your own eye colour. If you want to make hazel eyes ‘pop’, choose violet shades. This will really bring out the green/gold colour of the eyes.”
Best shades: bronze, shimmering copper, green, soft brown, purple, peach, light pink, mauve, bronze-green, gold-green
Clinique Wear Everywhere Palette in Greens
Clarins Garden Escape Palette
YSL Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils – No. 5 burgundy
Elizabeth Arden Untold Colour Collection Quad in Posh Purple
Violet eye colour is the rarest on the planet. But as Elizabeth Taylor knew, this colour can be strikingly beautiful. Greens, greys and lavenders are particularly good choices.
Best shades: greys, greens, yellows, lavender
Pro tip: When using a shadow that is similar to your eye colour, play around with the texture. A little shimmer can make your eyes really stand out.
Giorgio Armani Beauty Eye Tint in 03
Dior 5 Couleurs Kingdom of Colours in House of Greens
YSL Couture Variation in Tuxedo (coming in March 2015)
The resource: Bobbi Brown’s Everything Eyes book
New York makeup artist Bobbi Brown has recently published a comprehensive guide to eye makeup. She spends several chapters outlining tips and tricks for those who wear glasses. The how-to instructions are perfect for those just starting out with makeup. Highly recommended.